Comedy: American Style

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, Passing on 2012-09-30 22:08Z by Steven

Comedy: American Style

Rutgers University Press
October 2009 (Originally Published in 1933)
304 pages
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8135-4632-2
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8135-4631-5

Jessie Redmon Fauset (1882-1961)

Edited and with an Introduction by:

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson, Professor of English
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Comedy: American Style, Jessie Redmon Fauset’s fourth and final novel, recounts the tragic tale of a family’s destruction—the story of a mother who denies her clan its heritage. Originally published in 1933, this intense narrative stands the test of time and continues to raise compelling, disturbing, and still contemporary themes of color prejudice and racial self-hatred. Several of today’s bestselling novelists echo subject matter first visited in Fauset’s commanding work, which overflows with rich, vivid, and complex characters who explore questions of color, passing, and black identity.

Cherene Sherrard-Johnson’s introduction places this literary classic in both the new modernist and transatlantic contexts and will be embraced by those interested in earlytwentieth-century women writers, novels about passing, the Harlem Renaissance, the black/white divide, and diaspora studies. Selected essays and poems penned by Fauset are also included, among them “Yarrow Revisited” and “Oriflamme,” which help highlight the full canon of her extraordinary contribution to literature and provide contextual background to the novel.

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Nigger Heaven

Posted in Books, Media Archive, Novels, United States on 2012-09-30 21:34Z by Steven

Nigger Heaven

University of Illinois Press
2000 (Originally published in 1926)
336 pages
5.5 x 8.25 in.
Paper ISBN: 978-0-252-06860-7

Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964)

Introduction by:

Kathleen Pfeiffer, Professor of English
Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan

Foreward by:

Philip Levine

A controversial but appealing, amusing, and vivacious celebration of Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920’s

No other contemporary novel received the volume and intensity of criticism and curiosity that greeted Nigger Heaven upon its publication in 1926. Carl Van Vechten’s novel generated a storm of controversy because of its scandalous title and fed an insatiable hunger on the part of the reading public for material relating to the black culture of Harlem’s jazz clubs, cabarets, and social events.

“The book and not the title is the thing,” James Weldon Johnson insisted with regard to Nigger Heaven, and the book is indeed a nuanced and vibrant portrait of “the great black walled city” of Harlem. Opening on a scene of tawdry sensationalism, Nigger Heaven shifts decisively to a world of black middle-class respectability, defined by intellectual values, professional ambition, and an acute consciousness of class and racial identity.

Here is a Harlem where upper-class elites discuss art in well-appointed drawing rooms; rowdy and lascivious drunks spend long nights in jazz clubs and speakeasies; and politically conscious young intellectuals drink coffee and debate “the race problem” in walk-up apartments. At the center of the story, two young people—a quiet, serious librarian and a volatile aspiring writer—struggle to love each other as their dreams are slowly suffocated by racism.

This reissue is based on the seventh printing, which included poetry composed by Langston Hughes especially for the book. Kathleen Pfeiffer’s astute introduction investigates the controversy surrounding the shocking title and shows how the novel functioned in its time as a site to contest racial violence. She also signals questions of racial authenticity and racial identity raised by a novel about black culture written by a white admirer of that culture.

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Passing as White: The Life Altering Effects on Loved Ones

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Passing, United States on 2012-09-30 17:05Z by Steven

Passing as White: The Life Altering Effects on Loved Ones

Southern Connecticut State University
May 2006
122 pages
Publication Number: AAT 1435422
ISBN: 9780542641824

Kathleen Daubney

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Graduate Studies In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Master of Science

This thesis analyzes the theme of passing in Harlem Renaissance literature and deals with the consequences that such transitions to white society had on the passers’ friends and relatives. Choices that one person makes can have a domino and long lasting effect on his or her family and friends. This study focuses on: Passing by Nella Larsen, The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man by James Weldon Johnson, “Passing,” by Langston Hughes, and Comedy: American Style and Plum Bun both by Jessie Fauset. This thesis discusses if the family and friends have knowledge of the passing, if they had a voice in the novel, and if the children had knowledge of their heritage. It also discusses the effects passing had on the families and friends of the passers, along with their responses.



Purchase the dissertation here.

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Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Passing, United States on 2012-09-30 03:58Z by Steven

Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture

Oxford University Press
May 1997
356 pages
Paperback ISBN13: 9780195134186; ISBN10: 0195134184

Susan Gubar, Distinguished Professor Emerita and Ruth N. Halls Professor Emerita of English
Indiana University

When the actor Ted Danson appeared in blackface at a 1993 Friars Club roast, he ignited a firestorm of protest that landed him on the front pages of the newspapers, rebuked by everyone from talk show host Montel Williams to New York City’s then mayor, David Dinkins. Danson’s use of blackface was shocking, but was the furious pitch of the response a triumphant indication of how far society has progressed since the days when blackface performers were the toast of vaudeville, or was it also an uncomfortable reminder of how deep the chasm still is separating black and white America?

In Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture, Susan Gubar, who fundamentally changed the way we think about women’s literature as co-author of the acclaimed The Madwoman in the Attic, turns her attention to the incendiary issue of race. Through a far-reaching exploration of the long overlooked legacy of minstrelsy–cross-racial impersonations or “racechanges”—throughout modern American film, fiction, poetry, painting, photography, and journalism, she documents the indebtedness of “mainstream” artists to African-American culture, and explores the deeply conflicted psychology of white guilt. The fascinating “racechanges” Gubar discusses include whites posing as blacks and blacks “passing” for white; blackface on white actors in The Jazz Singer, Birth of a Nation, and other movies, as well as on the faces of black stage entertainers; African-American deployment of racechange imagery during the Harlem Renaissance, including the poetry of Anne Spencer, the black-and-white prints of Richard Bruce Nugent, and the early work of Zora Neale Hurston; white poets and novelists from Vachel Lindsay and Gertrude Stein to John Berryman and William Faulkner writing as if they were black; white artists and writers fascinated by hypersexualized stereotypes of black men; and nightmares and visions of the racechanged baby. Gubar shows that unlike African-Americans, who often are forced to adopt white masks to gain their rights, white people have chosen racial masquerades, which range from mockery and mimicry to an evolving emphasis on inter-racial mutuality and mutability.

Drawing on a stunning array of illustrations, including paintings, film stills, computer graphics, and even magazine morphings, Racechanges sheds new light on the persistent pervasiveness of racism and exciting aesthetic possibilities for lessening the distance between blacks and whites.

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Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora

Posted in Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2012-09-30 03:29Z by Steven

Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora

University of California Press
May 2009
296 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9780520255340
Hardcover ISBN: 9780520255326
PDF E-Book ISBN: ISBN: 9780520943469

Sarah Gualtieri, Associate Professor of History and American Studies and Ethnicity
University of Southern California

This multifaceted study of Syrian immigration to the United States places Syrians—and Arabs more generally—at the center of discussions about race and racial formation from which they have long been marginalized. Between Arab and White focuses on the first wave of Arab immigration and settlement in the United States in the years before World War II, but also continues the story up to the present. It presents an original analysis of the ways in which people mainly from current day Lebanon and Syria—the largest group of Arabic-speaking immigrants before World War II—came to view themselves in racial terms and position themselves within racial hierarchies as part of a broader process of ethnic identity formation.


  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Note on Terms and Transliterations
  • Introduction
  • 1. From Internal to International Migration
  • 2. Claiming Whiteness: Syrians and Naturalization Law
  • 3. Nation and Migration: Emergent Arabism and Diasporic Nationalism
  • 4. The Lynching of Nola Romey: Syrian Racial Inbetweenness in the Jim Crow South
  • 5. Marriage and Respectability in the Era of Immigration Restriction
  • Conclusion
  • Epilogue: Becoming Arab American
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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People are not always what they appear to be. People are sometimes not what they want to be.

Posted in Excerpts/Quotes on 2012-09-30 03:14Z by Steven

When it comes to race and ethnicity in America, it can all get very complicated depending on who is defining whom, and why. People are not always what they appear to be. People are sometimes not what they want to be. In reality, race is as much a matter of politics as biology; ethnicity as much an expression of fashion as fate. It can be transient, changing from time to time and place to place.

Jonathan Tilove, “Of Susie Guillory Phipps and Chief Redbone: The Mutability of Race,” Newhouse News Service, (July 9, 1992).

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“Wait . . . they had a white baby?!?!”

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Social Science on 2012-09-30 03:09Z by Steven

“Wait . . . they had a white baby?!?!”

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu
Stanford University

My niece recently had a baby, a beautiful boy. The proud grandmother showed the photo of the newborn to family members and everyone oohed and aahed. One of his cousins looked at the picture and said, “Oh he’s so cute!”  But suddenly a puzzled look came over him and he blurted out, “Wait . . . they had a white baby?!?!
When I heard this story I thought, Oh, it’s already started. People see colors and label according to what they see. The little cousin saw white and labeled the baby white. But mom is Japanese as well as Irish and Scottish. Dad is Irish as well as African American and American Indian. The baby is therefore all of these. But he is already being labeled by a single category, a race.
And he is already being looked at in relation to his family. The little cousin was intrigued  because to him mom is probably white and dad black, so put black and white together and what do you get? A white baby?…

Read the entire article here.


Tiger Mom’s Hapa Cubs

Posted in Articles, Asian Diaspora, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive on 2012-09-30 01:17Z by Steven

Tiger Mom’s Hapa Cubs

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu

Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu
Stanford University

Are persons with one Asian parent and one non-Asian parent Asian or not Asian? Schools don’t seem to know where to place them, leaving them on their own to determine their identities. In the article, “Some Asians’ college strategy: Don’t check ‘Asian’,” some young Hapa reveal the ambivalence and flexibility surrounding their identities. Parents wondering if they should regard their kids as Asian might take a lesson from Tiger Mom Amy Chua, who raised two Hapa children.

Amy describes her two girls, Sophia and Lulu, as having “brown hair, brown eyes, and Asianesque features.” They both speak Chinese and Sophia eats “all kind of organs and organisms, duck webs, pig ears, and sea slugs, critical aspects of Chinese identity.” Yet, on their first trip to China, the girls are treated as spectacles, drawing curious crowds, even in cosmopolitan Shanghai, when people stared, giggled, and pointed at the “two little foreigners who speak Chinese.” At the zoo, when the girls were taking pictures of the baby pandas, the crowd was taking pictures of the girls

Read the entire article here.


Stonequist’s Concept of “The Marginal Man” in Langston Hughes’ Play Mulatto

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-09-29 23:30Z by Steven

Stonequist’s Concept of “The Marginal Man” in Langston Hughes’ Play Mulatto

International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature
ISSN 2200-3592 (Print), ISSN 2200-3452 (Online)
Volume 1, Number 4 (September 2012)
pages 125-130

Farshid Nowrouzi Roshnavand
University of Tehran, Iran

Rajabali Askarzadeh Torghabeh, Assistant Professor of Letters and Humanities
Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran

Born with the inception of the slave trade, interracial mixing has always been a moot point throughout the history of the United States. In America’s racist climate, the mulatto offspring of every interracial relationship was deemed by the dominant white society to be born of transgression and thus was marginalized and disenfranchised as an alleged tainter of white “pure blood” and a threat to the societal system of structural positions. Facing discrimination and injustice like black Americans, white-black mulattoes also suffered from not belonging to a definite racial group. This duality of a mixed-blood’s life has grabbed the attention of many scholars including Everett Verner Stonequist who discussed the fragile subalternized status of the “marginal man” in an antagonistic environment while he rejects and craves for both of his racial ancestries at the same time. Envisioning a three-phase life-cycle for a mulatto, Stonequist maintained that the mulatto has either to conform to the status quo and survive or defy the power structures and embrace, mostly unfavorable, consequences. This paper aims to apply Stonequist’s concept of “marginal man” to Langston Hughes’ play Mulatto (1935) and tries to show how the alienated and rootless protagonist is inevitably precipitated into death and destruction.

Read the entire article here.

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Race and a Political Race

Posted in Articles, Native Americans/First Nation, New Media, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science, United States on 2012-09-28 21:33Z by Steven

Race and a Political Race

Everyday Sociology Blog

Jonathan R. Wynn, Assistant Professor of Sociology
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Dwanna L. Robertson
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

The Massachusetts Senate race between incumbent Scott Brown and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren took an unexpected sharp turn this week. Shades of racialized language (reminiscent of the 2008 Presidential campaign) seeped in. This actually started in April, when Brown’s staffers uncovered that Warren claimed she was a minority, implicating her as committing ethnic fraud because she lacked proof of a Native American ancestry.
During their first political debate, Brown went straight at this issue in a prepared remark, saying, “Professor Warren claimed she was a Native American, a person of color—And as you can see, she’s not.” With this statement, Brown contends he can identify Native Americans—and other people of color—just by looking at them.

It would be humorous—Did she accidentally forget to braid her hair and wear her moccasins?—if it didn’t have serious undertones cutting at the heart of race and politics in the U.S.. Brown suggests Warren received special consideration for claiming she was part Cherokee. “When you are a U.S. Senator,” he stated, “you have to pass a test and that’s one of character and honesty and truthfulness. I believe and others believe she’s failed that test.” But did Warren fail the test?…

..Back to Brown’s assertion idea that our eyes can tell us a person’s race. Sociologist Mary Campbell has been working on misclassification of race based upon skin tone, finding not only that American Indians experience a high level of misidentification, but that in the process they also experience higher levels of psychological distress…

There is, however, a real challenge when it comes to speaking of how indigenous folk look. It is not just that it’s a bad idea to think facial features are satisfactory markers of race. It is that the emphasis on perception also indicates a complete misunderstanding of U.S. History: People who claim First Nation Heritage are of a mixed ethnic background due to generations of attempted racial extermination, cultural oppression, and a breaking of tribal links to land and community…

Read the entire article here.

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